HP unveils data centre in a box


Hewlett-Packard Development Co. (HP) unveiled, on Wednesday, a new design for its blade servers that will enable 16 servers to be fitted into a 17.5-inch box.

The new HP BladeSystem 7000c server was launched Wednesday at a press event at the company’s Palo Alto, Calif. headquarters.

“This is a big announcement that comes in a very small package,” said Ann Livermore, executive vice-president of HP’s Technology Solutions Group.

With the launch, she said, HP hopes to change the way enterprise customers view data centres.

According to the company, the new server design emphasizes three key capabilities: easy and automated management, virtualization, and reduced heat and power consumption.

A unique feature of the new server is its miniature (2×2-inch) LCD that displays the status of individual blades or components within those blades. The screen is similar to those found on HP printers.

The C-Class systems can report the thermal situation within the chassis to a management console, allowing administrators to track power consumption and cooling needs across individual blades or different racks. “We wanted to make management of the system as easy [for] customers as [fixing] a paper jam in our printers,” said Mark Potter, vice-president of HP’s BladeSystems Division.

The new BladeSystem C-Class chassis also includes enhanced networking capabilities, including a new Virtual Connect Architecture, which enables administrators to wire systems once and then shift resources with virtualized Ethernet and fibre channel connections.

“Virtual Connect means one module, one cable,” drastically reducing the number of cables coming from servers, said Potter.

HP also hopes to reduce power consumption with the use of “smarter cooling” technology that borrows knowledge from the aeronautical industry and remote control hobbyists according to Wade Vinson, a fan technologist at HP. “The old assumption is the more you pack into a box the hotter it will get. The higher the density, the more heat the server generates and your cooling costs shoot up.”

Vinson said this problem has been circumvented with the new HP Blade Thermal Logic technology that uses an advance cooling system involving 10 specially designed fans that ram air into ducts within the server box. “We make every gram of air count. None is wasted.”

HP consulted jet engineers and remote control plane designers and enthusiasts to develop a fan that not only blows air at speeds up to 130 miles and hour but also works quietly.

The system is hooked up to sensors that shut off cooling power when it is not needed, generating savings of at least 60 per cent in power consumption.

Two blades based on Intel’s new Dempsey and Woodcrest server chips will be the first options for the new chassis. In addition, HP plans to release a blade based on Advanced Micro Devices’ Opteron processor in September, and another based on Intel’s dual-core Montecito Itanium processor by the end of the year.

Over the next few years, blades will probably start to replace 1U and 2U servers, said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata of Nashua, N.H. “It has advantages in terms of cabling and density,” he said.

He said the the lack of backwards compatibility does make for a little messiness – and work on the part of HP – during the transition, but for potential customers this is actually a pretty reasonable point to roll out a new chassis if they feel they need one. “The blade market is growing rapidly, but the installed base is still relatively small, so making the shift sooner, rather than later, makes sense.”

There are other contenders in the battle for the virtualization market but HP and IBM are duking it out for the top spot. Stressing HP’s advantages over the competition, Livermore said “Dell lacks the expertise in management and storage, EMC doesn’t have the volume, Sun can’t do anything of this and we have leaped frogged everything that IBM offers.”

She said IBM “made the wrong choice by sticking to a five-year-old technology.”

In its efforts to win over IBM blade users, HP has even offered a trade-in scheme to those who would like to try their BladeSystem 7000c.


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